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Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi dies in Libya after long battle with cancer

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET: TRIPOLI - The former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people has died, his son told NBC News on Sunday. He was 60.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi died at home after his health quickly deteriorated. "He has been suffering from cancer for a long time and God choose him," Khalid al-Magrahi told NBC.

"He was too sick to utter anything on his death bed," his brother Abdel Hakim told Reuters. "Just because Abdel Baset is dead doesn't mean the past is now erased. We will always tell the world that my brother was innocent.''

Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew to New York from London. All 259 people aboard the airliner were killed and 11 others on the ground in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, died from falling wreckage.

Scotland freed him in 2009 on compassionate grounds because he was suffering from advanced terminal prostate cancer and thought to have months to live. 

His release angered many relatives of the victims, 189 of whom were American, and the Obama administration criticized the decision.

Many speculated that a backdoor deal had been cut between the former regime of Moammar Gadhafi and the British government. With the fall of the Gadhafi regime in 2011, many in the U.S. and U.K. called on the new Libyan leaders to extradite Megrahi to serve out the remainder of his prison term, something Libya's ruling National Transitional Council refused to do.

Al-Megrahi, who served as an intelligence agent during the rule of Gadhafi, denied any role in suspected human rights abuses in his home country before Gadhafi's fall and death in a popular uprising last year. 

In April, al-Megrahi's condition worsened and he was taken to a private hospital to receive a transfusion of eleven liters of blood, but subsequently felt strong enough to return home. 

Megrahi's older brother, Mohamed, said the funeral will be after the noon prayer on Monday. He will be buried in Al Zagawani cemetary in Janzour, 12 miles west of Tripoli. Megrahi's house was filled Sunday with family members, relatives and neighbors paying condolences, NBC News reported.

The White House said that the death would not end the quest for justice for the families of the 270 people killed.

"Megrahi's death concludes an unfortunate chapter following his release from prison in 2009 on medical grounds - a move we strongly opposed,'' said White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

"We want to see justice for the victims of the Lockerbie bombing and their families. We will continue working with our new partners in Libya toward a full accounting of Gadhafi's horrific acts,'' Vietor said.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday criticized the Scottish government for allowing al-Megrahi to die a free man in what he said "smelled of a deal for oil.''

Schumer, a New York Democrat, said on CNN that the death of al-Megrahi meant the full truth about the Pan Am bombing may never be known.

"Both the Scottish and British governments have not been forthcoming,'' Schumer said. "The whole deal smelled of a deal for oil for this man's freedom and that was almost blasphemy given what a horrible person he was and the terrible destruction and tragedy that he caused. I don't know if we'll ever get to the bottom of it now.''

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who was in opposition when al-Megrahi was freed, said in Chicago, where he was attending the NATO summit: "I've always been clear he should never have been released from prison.

''Today is a day to remember the 270 people who lost their lives in what was an appalling terrorist act. Our thoughts should be with them and their families for the suffering they've had."

Jim Swire, the father of one of the British Lockerbie victims, said he was convinced al-Megrahi was innocent.

''I've been satisfied for some years that this man had nothing to do with the murder of my daughter and I grit my teeth every time I hear newscasters say 'Lockerbie bomber has died,'" he told BBC News television. ''This is a sad day."

NBC News, staff and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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